Next week is Thanksgiving (already?!) but at the Casa de Precht, we are gearing up to welcome a great mass of family a little earlier than that. On Sunday, our son Ian will have his grandparents and aunts and uncles all in attendance as he is baptized into the Christ's holy Church. We've been waiting a long time for this holy moment, not least of all because we wanted my brother Joseph (also a Methodist pastor) to participate. But Joe will not be doing the actual moment of baptism, and neither will I.
Ian's sisters have all been baptized by the hands of another pastor, and this weekend, it will be a privilege for me to place Ian in Pastor Sam's hands so that she may pour the water and welcome Ian to something far larger than his natural born family.
Whenever I have the pour the water over the startled head of an infant, I am deeply aware of the trust that moment requires. I am aware that I have asked parents to physically place their child in my hands, and that they are forever placing the child in the hands of the church.
At the moment of baptism, each of joins a kingdom that supercedes the claims of family, geography, ethnicity, or citizenship. When Jennifer and I receive Ian back from Sam we will receive him as a gift we accept and not as a right we claim. From this moment on, we are accountable to Church in which we have vowed to raise our son. And you, Christ's church, are accountable to God for your promise to raise him, and encourage him in faith.
It is a precious, and precarious, thing: to remember that my own children are God's before they are mine. To think that my own, soul-aching love for them is as much like God's love as a 3 inch instagram of Mt. Everest is like the real thing. It is precious and precarious, to remember how many parents I've asked to relinquish their children to God in this holy sacrament, and how many have said "we will," and how often the Church has promised to accept those children in Jesus' name, and to know that name will never fail.
So I won't be baptizing Ian on Sunday. God will do the baptizing, through the Church and through a pastor set apart to represent the Church.
I will simply stand, for the third time in my life, like any other parent in our church, with my hands open and upturned, to say "this child is not mine, he is Yours."
We believe that baptism is what God does, which is why we'll baptize infants, and the mentally challenged, and anyone else God will bring to the water. God is always ready to give grace. We believe that baptism is what God does, which is why this moment in Ian's life is holy and un-repeatable. The promises of baptism are God's promises, and they never fail. Even if Ian wanders, even if he chooses to deny this holy gift, he'll never be able to undo the giving. We may not keep faith with God's promises, but God keeps faith with us. God's grace continues to pour upon us, to the very end.
But before I get to that moment this Sunday, and hear those holy promises, I have one other holy moment to walk through. Tomorrow, at 2PM in our sanctuary, I will have the privilege of presiding over a service of death and resurrection for Ms. Mary Barrow, as we commend her to the church triumphant. If you listen to the words of our funeral service, you may notice that it mentions baptism again and again. To the very end, God's promises remain. They are our hope and our salvation.
Towards the end of that service I will stand with my hands lifted high and pray the prayer I've prayed over so many of God's departed saints:
"Before she was ours, she is Yours."
Let's all be God's together this Sunday.